5. Childhood Friendship
When families had close contacts, children mingled together. This proximity has built a common childhood memory. A reciprocal fascination was certainly a powerful engine of interest for each other. Memonnite boys were considered adults with community responsibilities in an early age. Catholic boys craved for such autonomy because they were kept under patriarchal authority much longer – sometimes even after being married. Mennonite girls received a very strict education and entertainment was strictly confined to the homes of family and relatives. Catholic girls had many opportunities to meet other young people. We can imagine that many Mennonite mothers would have frown upon the idea of going to pagan and turbulent celebrations such as Śmigus-dyngus (Easter Monday) or Wianki (mid-Summer solstice).
Catholic and Mennonite children lived in the same rural environment. In spite of deep cultural differences, they had much in common. None of them could escape the daily chores of the farm. All of them were proud of being part of the family business. Whenever they met during market days, we can imagine the usual competition game about comparing the sizes of eggs or the strength of horses. Mennonite People were quite obsessive in preserving their identity but they were also welcoming for people outside their community. When mutual trust and interest applied on both sides, Catholic and Mennonite kids could develop friendship.
The “sand sea” (Grochalskie Piachy) and the beaches along the Vistula River were their common playgrounds. Friendship was developed with fishing opportunities in the canal Kromnowski, exploration of marshes in the Kampinos forest and boat adventures on the Kazun Lake. Mennonite wooden toys were much coveted by Catholic children. Elaborated miniature carriages, articulated horses, or state-of-the-art wind mills were traded against slingshots and skat games – two objects that were banned in many strict Mennonite families.
Christmas and Easter were important Christian celebrations. In prosperous households, Mennonite kids were invited for the blessing of Easter baskets (Święconka). Sometimes, their parents joined them after the ceremony, bringing white pashka cakes. Catholic children were always welcomed with a glass of milk in Mennonite houses. Going back home with candied fruits wrapped in a piece of paper was considered a special treat. In the mid 1920’s, the war was far behind, our family was prosperous and there was no reason to anticipate the tragedy that would befall in September 1939.
Painting above: Wspomnienia młodości, 1890 – Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929) – National Museum in Warsaw.
Mennonites Deutsch Kazun
Mennonici Kazuń Niemiecki
Holendrzy - Olędrzy
This series is a reminiscence of the Mennonite Community in the Kazun-Secymin area with no historical pretentions. Mennonite People were Polish subjects and Polish citizens as any other members of the Polish population. However, for a better understanding, we use the words “Catholics”, “Poles” or “Polish farmers” to designate the native local population.
"Je jileada, je fitjeada"
The more educated, the more mixed together.
Wooden toy from the 1910’s. This is not a Mennonite artefact but similar toys were produced by Mennonite children. (Ksiᶏżyk collection)